Lectures over the Transom

One metaphor we used to use at IBM research was technology “over the transom”. “Over the transom” is an idiom for work submitted for publication without being solicited. The idea was that in many cases Research would come up with new technology and decided to to ship the unsolicited technology over to the business units. The belief (hope?) was that the business unit would happily take the technology and create a blockbuster product.

Never worked that way, and still doesn’t. Without early and frequent interaction with the business unit – they never could\would accept the technology and take the needed ownership. The reality was that technology thrown over the  transom would just fall to the ground and just stay there. I am finding the same is true for knowledge transfer from professors to students (aka lectures).

Lectures are a way for a professor to throw knowledge\wisdom\insights over the transom to students. Just like at IBM, if the receiving side isn’t an active participant – it just doesn’t work. There is a need for the student to actively receive the knowledge – practice it, interact with it and accept ownership.

I think that is something that many students intuitively understand and why most take notes – they see is as a simple way cost effective way to interact with the material and not be completely passive. The problem (as can be seen from the research cited in
Transcription on a Laptop is NOT Note Taking (and is detrimental to your grades) is most notes are transcription and not encoding, and doesn’t allow students to take ownership of the knowledge. Review, practice and true encoding are the only ways for students to really assimilate knowledge and take ownership of it.

As students use LectureMonkey they learn that transcription is a waste of time – copying from the board or presentation, or transcribing the is lecture is best left to LectureMonkey. They quickly learn that the only valuable comments are insights or pointers to important information for further review.  In other words true encoding, not transcription. LectureMonkey’s comment mechanism enables students to interact and share important information about a lecture, make their own and help their friends – and that is when learning really happens.


About Jacob Ukelson

blog (mostly) about my work and technology. So far I have been lucky enough to have been working on things I consider fun and with really top notch people. I have worked in both large companies (IBM) and small companies (ActionBase, ConicIT, Dapper, eXeedTechnologies). eXeed was establish to remedy a failure of the VC model in Israel – most VCs were monetary investors, but most companies needed not just money – they needed operational and business guidance. That is what we provide at eXeed – not just an investment but also our time and skills as seasoned software executives. I have taken on various titles – CTO, VP Products, VP BizDev – but throughout my career a constant focus has been on technologymarket fit, aka customer development. Unique breakthrough technology is a start, but the product must solve real business problems. It needs to be something customers can understand, relate to and will want to buy. I have been doing this for 20 years for software products in companies both large and small.
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